The Cody Humpwhistle Blog

linux and crypto currency podcaster

The 5 minute rule

Essentially, if you can’t be arsed to do something but it needs to be done. Do it for 5 minutes. If you’re not flowing, reschedule to continue tomorrow. So on and so fourth.

I have a daily todolist, ticktick I use (no affiliation), and often I’ll get to something I just don’t feel like doing. Start it, don’t worry about completing it. It just creates a better psychology around getting things done, as it never feels like you’ve got a big task ahead. Well – that’s not strictly true, you’ve got to be realistic with it, for example:

Cleaning your car, you could start that for 5 minutes, you’ve got everything out, the hose set up, and then after 5 minutes, put it all back away “well, I adhered to the 5 minute rule, so I’m done today”. It’s not really going to work long term is it, as you’re not actually making any progress on the task, there isn’t a measurable step forward. I guess that’s the key here, it only applies, if those 5 minutes are in the bank, and the next day you can pick up from where you left off and continue moving forward, rather than starting again from the beginning.

Primary example today was I had to move the CCTV camera mounted on the side of my house, further back for one reason or another. Part of this was finding the old mount kit it came with, that I never fitted originally, and use it during the remount. Right off the bat I couldn’t be arsed, we’re talking about an hour or so of fucking around with cables and finding the old mount that alone could take 15 minutes, that’s if I locate it at all.

From the second I woke up, having a load of other shit to be getting on with as well, I just wasn’t looking forward to working through everything that had to be done today, this being one of the biggest tasks. Rather than just power through, I spent 5 minutes looking for the mount kit (never found it), and rescheduled for tomorrow. I feel better for making progress, and don’t have the task hanging over my head for the rest of the day.

Another example is recording the audio for a podcast, I don’t get excited when I’ve got to do this but I know longer term, it is a benefit. Now, after setting up, and starting to talk you actually do fall into flow usually. So it works well. But what if you didn’t. 5 minutes in, you’re just not feeling it. This is a “fence case” – literally just made that expression up. But we’ve got a task whereas you could make an argument that you’ve made progress that you can pick up from tomorrow and record another 5 minutes, or treat the initial recording as a “draft” that didn’t sound good enough to be published, so you’ll try again tomorrow. Or – must we power on like the Car Wash case?

I’m actually on the fence, when I started writing the previous paragraph the intention was to end it with “sometimes you’ve just got to use common sense and power through, as it wouldn’t make sense to end it at the 5 minute mark” but I’ve changed my mind. If you start to record an episode, and you’re not feeling it and sound like a flat fart, well fuck it. Hang it up and come back tomorrow – why not? What’s the fucking rush. If you’re doing something and not enjoying it, what’s the point of forcing it if it can be delay without any serious penalty? You’ll only resent the task, and end up quitting it all together longer term.

So I guess I’m going to reference the 80/20 rule based off of nothing really. Being, if you start something based on the 5 minute rule, and you’re not feeling it, 80% of the time you can reschedule. But some times, as in the car wash example, you’re just going to have to get that shit done. As when you come to it the next day, you’ll have to repeat the exact same process meaning you made no measurable impact the day before.

We can conclude with this post in of itself. I was just supposed to be putting down the title and a one line description about the content of the post, to pick up another time when I’m doing my “5 minute blog write” task, and yet I hit the natural flow state, and you always go with the flow. Using that momentum of enthusiasm and wanting to work on something, trumps all else. It’s an indescribable energy you should never shy away from.

oh look a pretty quote from the post above

always go with the the flow

One thought on “The 5 minute rule”

  1. Cody Humpwhistle Post author

    What I missed, is when finishing up on the task, always put what the next step is to start on tomorrow in the description of your task. You’ve cut the task down to 5 minutes, everyone is happy. Don’t let tomorrow start on a slow coach, give yourself a one liner under your task header, advising what you need to start on tomorrow to continue making progress on the task.


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